The James Gang
Here’s hoping that he new week finds you all well.
The James Gang is one of those groups that I knew OF before I was familiar with any or their music.
Joe Walsh’s pre-Eagles solo work was a major part of my teenaged/stoner listening, but it wasn’t until my early 20s that I was blown away by the JG’s version of ‘Stop’.
At that time (and for a few years afterward) I assumed that the song was an original, until one fine day, at a cookout of Mr Luther’s, what should I hear flowing from the stereo but Howard Tate’s original version of the song (as written and produced by Jerry Ragovoy).
I was blown away by my introduction to Howard Tate (who would become a fave), and would find myself with more respect for the taste of Joe Walsh and his James Gang bandmates.
It would be a few more years before I would get my hands on a copy of their debut LP, 1969’s ‘Y’er Album’.
It was then that I discovered that they had not only covered Howard Tate, but also the Yardbirds ‘Lost Woman’ as well as one of my all-time favorite Buffalo Springfield songs, today’s selection ‘Bluebird’.
The Buffalo Springfield recorded no fewer than three versions (maybe four if you include the 45 edit) of Bluebird, including the epic nine-minute version that would appear on the ‘Retrospective’ collection from the early 70s, and the unreleased version that would only appear in an episode of the TV series ‘Mannix’ in 1967.
The James Gang’s first album exists (for me, anyway) in that sweet spot between early psychedelia and mud-encrusted, festival jamming excess, with a lyrical vibe that would soon be sacrificed on the altar of bluesy stomp (by pretty much every rock band of the era).
The James Gang version opens with piano and orchestra, before the band comes in, quietly at around :25 with some backwards guitar, which gives way to power chords, bass and drums.
You get a little of the band’s patented, ‘Live at Leeds-y’ stomp, before things get quieter and open up into the verse.
The James Gang translates the multi-layered guitar approach of the Springfield into a simpler, power-trio sound, but they do it with a tremendous amount of respect for the original.
The sound gets suitably far out for 1969, with enough headphone juice (if you know what I mean and I think that you do) in case you want to mellow out and give things a close listen.
The rest of the album is quite good, and ought not be too hard to find.
I hope you dig it, and I’ll see you all next week.
If you dig what we do here or over at Funky16Corners, please consider clicking on the Patreon link and throwing something into the yearly operating budget! Do it and we’ll send you some groovy Funky16Corners Radio Network (and related) stickers!